In the world of SaaS, there is a common belief that great products sell themselves. While this is true to some extent (and there are a few very vivid examples of such cases like DropBox), a skilled sales team still plays a very significant role when it comes to growing the business. Your SaaS company may be able to achieve fast growth with the help of enthusiastic early adopters at early stages, but at some point, your inside sales team will need to assist in closing more deals.
Sales and marketing teams are there to show potential customers how innovative and valuable your SaaS product is and, as a result, to boost the product’s sales. The best SaaS sales teams are able to do this with ease, yet, such teams are few and far between. For the success of your SaaS company, you need to have the right inside sales team. Here are the six essential skills for SaaS inside sales teams to boost product’s sales.
1. Being tech-savvy
Any sales rep selling a SaaS product must be comfortable with both using and discussing technology. Though traditional sales teams usually have an understanding of only their product, this cannot be the case with SaaS. Besides the technical aspects of the products, SaaS sales reps should also know how it fits in with and complements other technology in a business’ software stack.
In other words, besides their industry’s specifications, SaaS sales teams need to also pay attention to the general technology trends and development. A good sales team needs to be technologically fluent, easily understand/adapt to new technology and learn to use it quickly. The reason is because high-performing sales teams are the first to embrace technology:
2. Understanding the value of the SaaS product
It does not only matter how innovative your product is, because there will still be many people who don’t fully understand the value of your offer at first. Many people will believe that they are fine with managing their current workflow, and they don’t need your SaaS software for better effectiveness. Potential customers often either do not have the budget or don’t see a need for changing the status quo. This is where your SaaS sales team should come in.
Qualified SaaS sales teams should be able to easily present the value of your product and fully understand how it can revolutionize companies from within. A great sales rep will be able to easily prove the high ROI of a SaaS product and convince prospects that they will lose out on a huge opportunity if they do not make use of the software. Good sales teams know that a powerful value proposition is the key to success for SaaS products.
3. Knowing customers inside and out
Naturally, analysing and understanding the ideal buyer persona is a must for any sales team, but it’s much more important in SaaS industry than most others. The reason is that in traditional sales, in order to hit the monthly quota, reps might be able to sell their product to a customer who is not exactly the right fit. However, in SaaS, sales teams might actually hurt the business if they close a deal with the wrong customer. Those customers who don’t truly need the SaaS product are likely to waste the resources and investment the company makes while onboarding them.
Qualified sales teams clearly know who are their potential customers. If the prospect is not the right fit, sales teams should be able to quickly disqualify them and shut down the sales process before it goes too far.
4. Customer centricity
The key word in SaaS is not “software” but “service”. The main difference between traditional software vendors and SaaS companies is that instead of just selling a tangible piece of software, SaaS companies provide services, assist their customers in implementation and usage of the product, etc. According to Mike Arenth, former executive vice president of customer success at Ariba, “The difference between selling SaaS and traditional enterprise software is that with SaaS you are selling an outcome to your clients instead of just selling them the tools to get to the outcome themselves.”
Being customer-focused for a sales team means that each of the reps should clearly understand what their customers are hoping to achieve and how they can help them deploy the product for maximum effectiveness. Selling SaaS is not a one time deal. SaaS sales teams should maintain close customer relationships over the long term and act as a consultant for their products. The graph below shows the importance of customer centricity for SaaS industry:
5. Data mastering
The SaaS model gives sales teams the opportunity to implement and use data analytics to gain direct insight into how their clients use their product, what works, what difficulties there are and what efforts should be done in order to maximize their customers’ long-term value. A good sales team should have data mastering skills in order to take advantage of this.
Data analytics allow sales reps to pinpoint any problems, highlight successes and adjust their strategy accordingly. It is known that high-performing sales teams are 3.5 times more likely to use sales analytics than underperforming teams. So, companies who are hoping to advance their SaaS offering need to be sure that they have an inside sales team, whose reps are experienced in data analytics.
Companies striving to advance their SaaS offering need to be sure they find an executive who is experienced in data analytics.
6. Strong networking skills
In today’s SaaS companies the traditional traveling sales reps don’t exist. Because most SaaS companies focus on inside sales teams, there are many situations where reps need to call and email prospects daily. Very often, sales teams need to close deals without even meeting with the prospect in person. This means that sales reps need to have robust communication and networking skills in order to build strong interpersonal relationships using just email, phone calls and/or video chats.
Qualified sales reps have great written and spoken communication skills and understand the inside sales challenges very thoroughly. The best sales teams are able to engage prospects through email and phone calls, just as well as traditional reps close deals with customers in person.
The following are the most essential skills for SaaS inside sales team to boost their product’s sales. To make sure that your sales reps master these skills, CEOs need to continuously measure them and see whether their product’s sales increase thanks to the sales team. Here are four ways to do so:
Measure the speed of deals through the pipeline
This is all about the average time that it takes to close a deal. Let’s see the comparison of two salespeople in order to see why this is useful:
Let’s say that John closes deals in 6 weeks on average and Kate does it in 3 weeks on average. At this point, we can see that they must have huge differences in their communication skills and work methods. Based on these numbers, we can see that John does not have the habit of gaining small agreements during the sales process. Velocity is low, because John is always hunting for the “big yes”. Therefore, we can infer that Kate continuously uses confirmations and checks in order to see if even a small buying decision has been made by the prospect.
Deal velocity should increase over time and higher velocity means that the sales team is more skilled and experienced. Here is the formula for sales velocity:
Measure the size of a sale
Like deal velocity, the average size of deals should also increase over time. Average sale size is an excellent indicator of the sales team’s negotiation and communication skills. This measurement can show how good a sales rep is at finding out the real needs and preferences of prospects, and matching them to more premium products.
Measure the number of leads
Probably the clearest way CEOs can measure the skills of SaaS inside sales teams is by measuring the number of leads in the pipeline during a specific time period. If the number of new leads is low, this means that either the sales team is not very good at initiating first contact or they simply don’t put much effort into it.
An increasing number of sales can speak volumes about the skills and work ethic of the sales team and is a good indicator of sales success.
Measure total win conversion and conversion by stage
Most CEOs measure win ratio and in this case as well, the information is much more useful if you look at it by sales stage. For example, if Kate has a 70% conversion from the “first meeting” to “proposal” stage and John has 35% conversion, this probably means one of the following two things: either Kate is much better at turning the prospect’s needs into identifiable “pain” or John wastes time with hopeless cases. This is why you always need to look at this metric by comparing one sales rep to another.
We are done here, as we have the six essential skills for SaaS inside sales team to boost your SaaS product sales, along with four ways CEOs can measure the success of the sales team. If you have other points on your mind that you would like to add, please share them with us in the comments below. We would be happy to hear from you.